COLUMBUS, Ohio -- So much for simply trying to be the best team on the field.
Ohio State may only want to measure itself on the scoreboard and the win column, but it certainly played like a team well aware that its being held to a higher standard.
And if it is style points the voters and computers in the BCS formula want, that’s exactly what the Buckeyes gave them.
Under the microscope seemingly every week in the search for flaws among national title contenders, the No. 4 Buckeyes have left some room for criticism despite their unbeaten record heading into the final month of the regular season. And while Ohio State downplayed the need to do anything other than beat the next opponent all week, by Saturday night at Ohio Stadium it was clear the 63-14 annihilation was meant to send a message to more than just overmatched Penn State.
“I think it helps,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “That was certainly not our mindset.
“Our mindset is to find a way to win this game against a very talented team.”
It wasn’t hidden very well and it certainly didn’t take long to find a way to knock off the Nittany Lions, effectively leaving nothing to do in the second half but start comparing resumes as the Buckeyes continue to jockey for position among the unbeaten teams in the race for the crystal football.
All the talk about Oregon’s high-powered offense? Ohio State had an answer for that.
The Buckeyes showed off their own up-tempo attack as they raced to 42 first-half points, including a brutally efficient 55-second drive just before intermission that removed any uncertainty about the outcome that might have been left.
Alabama’s dominant defense? The Buckeyes might not be perfect on that side of the ball, but a relentless pass rush and an opportunistic secondary combined to make life miserable for a Penn State offense that had averaged more than 33 points per game entering the weekend but only found the end zone once in a competitive situation.
Florida State and its Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback? Braxton Miller was unstoppable leading the Buckeyes, looking every bit the preseason favorite for the trophy he was before suffering a knee sprain in September. The junior was in complete command and for the second consecutive week made a case that he’s playing the finest football of his career, throwing for 252 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for two more scores before the Buckeyes sent in the backups midway through the third quarter.
And while Ohio State kept the conversation focused on itself after finishing up its demolition of the Nittany Lions, it didn’t do much to discourage discussion elsewhere with perhaps the most complete performance of the Meyer era.
“We’re just trying to go out there and win every game, try to win it handily like we should,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “We just went out there and did our jobs, and we finished how we wanted to. We’re just going out there trying to win every game, and at the end of the day, everything is going to happen how it’s supposed to.
“If somebody wants a message that they saw from this game, they can have one.”
The Buckeyes hardly could have made themselves more clear.
There’s nothing that can be done about the strength of schedule at this point, and the perception of the rest of the Big Ten is also beyond their control. Ohio State is almost certainly still going need help from the three teams ahead of it in the BCS standings, and one blowout isn’t going to provide enough of a boost to jump any of those programs.
But just in case anybody had forgotten about them, the Buckeyes at least provided a helpful reminder that they don’t plan on going away.
“What we’re worried about is just finding a way to win the game, and things usually work out,” Meyer said. “I like where we’re at right now. I like where we’re at as a team.”
The Buckeyes did everything they could to make sure Meyer wasn’t the only one who noticed.